The cabinet door gave a little squeak as it closed.
James had been quiet the whole way back to the cabin, and although the silence was uncomfortable, I felt like there was nothing I could say to break it.
We prepared a soup for lunch out of dehydrated potato soup mix, kidney beans, and chicken broth that was going to expire in a few months. I stirred the contents in a small pot on the stove as James sat at the kitchen table and stared out the window. His expression was resolutely serious.
He looked deep in thought and I hesitated to break the trance he held with the scenery outside the window to tell him lunch was ready. I quietly announced that food was ready as I set the spoon down on the decorative holder in the middle of the stove and James nodded in acknowledgment. He rose, bracing himself with his hands as he went.
I set aside two bowls and spoons on the counter and turned to face him as he walked over to me.
“Thank you.” His voice was deep and clear as he stood in front of me, his eyes meeting mine.
“You are welcome.” I forced an uneasy smile in reply, “You okay?”
“Yeah,” He picked up his bowl and spoon, “Just thinking.”
“That’s dangerous.” I winked at him.
We walked to the table and sat down. James grabbed the ladle and spooned soup into our bowls.
The steam wafted from them and into the rafters as we waited for the soup to cool.
I put my head down on my arms as I rested them on the table and looked longingly at my bowl as my stomach growled.
James let out an unexpected laugh as he watched me pout about waiting until everything was cool enough to eat.
“You know, “He teased, “Most people would kill to have someone look at them the way you look at food.”
I started to protest but ended up giggling, “I suppose that’s true.”
“Wait,” I paused, “Are you telling me you are jealous of our lunch?”
He gave a long and drawn out, “Mayyyybbeeeeeee.” in reply.
I jokingly glared at him as we took the first sips of our soup. I picked up my bowl with a dramatic flair and started drinking the soup straight from it, watching to see how James would react.
“Is this a challenge?” He gave out a hearty chuckle.
He tipped up his own bowl up and began downing copious amounts of soup. I thought he wasn’t going to stop to breathe but he briefly took a break to inhale, glance up and wink.
“I can totally eat more than you.” I dared him.
Soup broth covered his upper lip as he grinned, “You’re on!”
We refilled our bowls a few times until we both couldn’t comfortably eat anymore and were getting sleepy.
“I think I win.” James said, shamelessly patting his belly.
“This time…” I admitted defeated, “But next time I’ll get you.”
I thanked him as he took our dishes and put them in the sink.
“Well…” I started as I pulled my legs up under me in the chair.
“Back to work?” James finished my sentence.
“Sure.” I said, feeling a bit nervous and excited about learning more.
James opened one of the documents and flipped through the pages to find where we’d left off. He quickly found where we’d stopped and began confidently reading out loud. His confidence had always impressed me, it was one of the many traits he had that I was jealous of.
“Listen to this!” James said as he started to read a portion of text about the initial proposal and experimentation in the Titan project.
When it was recognized that the human species of old possessed more intrinsic capabilities than those of us in modern times, a project was begun that sought to restore the vigor of the human organism.
The deterioration in the human genome had been shown to be of two different kinds. The first kind is strictly mutational, a loss of information resulting in malfunctions in multiple cellular functions, leading to a loss of vigor overall. This kind of deterioration currently lies beyond the power of science to correct, therefore the project sought to address the second cause of deteriorating vitality: modified epigenetic markers within the existing genome.
It was theorized that, by restoring epigenetic markers to a state more closely resembling that of ancient man’s, one could achieve a semblance of the vigor found in bygone eras. The process to achieve this result was developed and involved the use of animal genetic material as a rubric, allowing the human epigenome to shift its expression to match that found in certain segments of a given beast in line with the results we hope to achieve. Much like a set of braces acting as a corrective to align ones teeth in the proper way.
Early experiments failed to produce the expected epigenetic shift At last a catalyst was found that allowed for greater intersection between the animal epigenome and that of the test subject: transhumanase.
This molecule revolutionized the process, allowing for the first animal-mediated human epigenome. The experiment was not a success in the way we had hoped, however. As the goal had been to use the animal material merely to shift the test subject’s epigenome to a more primitive state. With the inclusion of transhumanase, this effect was obtained, but not without unintended consequences. It seems that, not only was the human epigenome reverted, but certain animalistic tendencies from the donor creature were imported via unknown mechanism. As only the animal epigenetic markers were used, not entire DNA, we can only suspect that we have more still to understand about the effect of the epigenome upon a given organism. The research sponsors – far from considering the experiment a failure, or at least incomplete – hailed the results as more than they could have hoped for and moved forward with plans to weaponize the technology. History will judge those men and women who applied their intellects to the experiment as the angels who paved the way for our survival as a species, or the demons who turned us into something else.
The last sentence stung me a bit. I doubted many people considered the people who helped create my powers as angels. So if the people who helped create my current situation were to be considered demons by some, what would I be considered?
There were hundreds of pages dedicated to the creation and biology of the Titans. Although it was long and tedious to go through every page, we didn’t want to miss anything. James read page after page, mostly focused on the dense biological mumbo jumbo and repeated acknowledgments that though the project was thought to be impossible, with the appropriate amounts of modern medical breakthroughs and funding, it was achievable. They saw the experiment as a successful reality, even if their results didn’t fit the original vision. We spent hours reading and the information we gleaned only left us with more questions.
I let out a tired sigh as James opened another section of the documents. Getting through all these papers was going to take at least a week or two. I wondered if we could really get through all of them before the next shoe dropped for us. pushed the stacks of paper away and stretched out against the kitchen chair.
James pushed the stacks of paper away and stretched out against the kitchen chair.
“Okay,” He crossed his eyes jokingly, “I think that is more than enough for one day.”
I giggled at how squeaky his voice had gotten from reading so much. It vaguely resembled a boy going through puberty.
“Well,” I asked as I leaned back into my own chair, trying to stifle the giggles, “What are we going to do for supper?”
James looked thoughtful as he tried to even out his voice, “Too bad I can’t take you out on a date to a restaurant – that’d be fun.”
“Oh,” I joked as I pushed my chair in, “You’d take me on a date, huh?”
He stood up excitedly and looked at me with an expression somewhere between serious and flirty, “Is going fishing a date?”
“Depends on who you ask.” I replied coyly.
“I’m asking you.” James said in a hopeful voice as he took a step and placed himself in front of me.
“Yeah,” I said bashfully, “I think it could be.”
James grinned from ear to ear, “Good.”
He cleared his throat, “Do you want to go fishing with me, Titania?” He asked as seriously as if he was asking me on a real date.
I suppressed a smile, “I would love to.”
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